Market Garden

The Market Garden project

The Market Garden within Meanwood Valley Urban Farm is situated on 2 acres of south-facing slope and only 1.5 miles from Leeds city centre. It is best placed to feed the many people that surround it, indeed it would be a tragic waste not to! It is quite simply unique in terms of its location and its ability to sustainably feed its locality in perpetuity.

It aims to feed and ‘grow’ as many people as possible with food and knowledge that is as fresh, nutritious and caring for the earth as possible. 

Until 2019, the skills within the farm were slipping away to maintain it and was falling into a state of underuse. This was a shame as there had been large investment over the past 20 years in large polytunnels, an extensive path system and a beautiful greenhouse/potting shed complex for the market garden, so all the elements to make it successful were there already but were not being utilised fully. 

Since then, a new group has formed with the skill set and determination to restore and develop the market garden and it now stands in a strong place because the market garden team has been getting things done.

The project is currently installing polytunnels, beds, paths, retaining walls and automated irrigation over the whole site to be able to feed the equivalent of 70 households by its sustainable peak.

It’s adopted a plastic, pot-free plant nursery regime by using soil blocking equipment to raise all of its plants and prioritises the health of the soil, which is its most important resource. 

Our wide open spaces and essential work in providing food to the community allow us to offer volunteers a way to contribute to the food needs of the local area and feel connected to the beautiful Meanwood Valley.

 Its manifestation of its aims are the following activities:

1. Producing genuinely affordable fruit and veg for its farm shop, the only actual farm shop in the inner city area. 

2. Feeding very local households with all of their weekly veg through its Community Supported Agriculture scheme.

3. Free or reduced-price fruit and veg to volunteers, staff, trainees and adults with learning disabilities groups and to the on-site social enterprise, “Barn Cafe” (http://thebarnmeanwood.com/aboutusnew), who turns the produce into tasty meals for the public.

4. Fruit and veg to local ethical businesses such as the Leeds Community Bakery (https://leedsbread.coop/).

5. Surplus and leftover fruit and veg to Rainbow Junktion (www.rainbowjunktion.org.uk), a local ‘Pay as You Feel’ cafe that turns otherwise waste food into delicious meals for the most vulnerable in society.

6. Using person and soil-appropriate technology to look after the land in perpetuity

OUR GROWING PRACTICES

Below gives you a little insight into our current growing practices and the decisions we’ve made. If you are keen to learn more or have any thoughts why not pop down to the farm or email us at veg@mvuf.org.uk.

Reducing plastics use

We are using and developing a ‘no plastic’ system that uses soil blocks to grow all the seedlings in. The soil is put into a press and then squeezed out into cubes that don’t need a pot to keep their shape. For more information on soil blocks and how to make them, click onto this link: https://www.chelseagreen.com/2020/ditch-the-pots-use-soil-blocks/

All our crates that we use are crates that have been donated and would otherwise have gone to waste. They fit 77 blocks in each one and we can fit 36 crates onto one of our 4 benches!

We still use plastics bags to keep our salads fresh and protected. All of our bags are recycled plastic bags. We do not use compostable bags because they’re still quite expensive. When really compostable bags appear that are affordable, we will switch to them.


Chemical free but not certified organic

In general, our practices would adhere to the requirements of a certified organic regime. We do not use any chemical fertiliser or pesticides whatsoever and we practice a long-term organic rotation.

We don’t have organic certification because for us it would be a lengthy and expensive process

We buy in compost and fertilisers and they are all certified organic. We develop part of our compost on site; the photo to the right shows development of our compost pile using piping to introduce air circulation and prevent the need for turning the compost. This method is known as the Johnson-Su Bioreactor method.

We only use certified organic seed. Our favourite providers are https://seedcooperative.org.uk/ or https://www.realseeds.co.uk/

Our Greenhouse

The greenhouse uses a small heated area to germinate the seedlings. It is some highly insulated shelving with a heating element in it and a thermostat. We call it the germination chamber. It covers about a 2.5m x 2.5m space. All the watering is automated, which is far more efficient than hand watering. We use mains water for watering because of the extremely large expense in creating high quality rainwater that can be used in the greenhouse. We hope to make a system in the next 5 years that moves onto using rainwater.

Growing plants in the field or in the polytunnels

We grow plants on an organic rotation system, which is a standard system to prevent disease build up in the soil and to cycle nutrients efficiently. The composts that we add in the field are made at the farm from the animals at the farm and from all the waste organic matter from the market garden.

Tillage

We, as much as possible, adopt a no-tillage practice, alongside keeping the soil covered as much as possible. To learn more about no-till or low-till systems, please clink on this link: https://www.agricology.co.uk/resources/no-till-growers-realising-promise-soil-health-organic-horticulture-part-1-helping-growers